Import Selection: Chianti, 1990. Melini Borghi D’Elsa

Founded in 1705, the Melini winery owns 225 acres of vine­yards in Tuscany, home to many of Italy’s finest red wines. Melini stands as one of the top four pro­ducers in the renowned Chianti re­gion there. This wine gets its name for the villages (borghi) along the River Elsa and comes from their modern facility at Gaggiano.

About a century ago, one Adol­fo Laborel Melini, who had taken over his family’s firm, made a sig­nificant, historic, contribution to the success of the local wine in­dustry. The plant louse, phylloxera, had all but destroyed France’s vineyards. Wine exports from Ita­ly rose from 500,000 hectolitres in 1878 to two and a half million in 1883. There was great demand for Chianti in its famous and charming straw-covered flagon. Due to the fragility of the fiasco (flask), the traditional way of sealing these flagons had always been by hand, with a layer of oil between the cork and the wine. Customers abroad, unaware that the oil had to be re­moved, or not knowing how to do so (with a dab of cotton or a deft flick of the wrist) would often have at it straight away, with dis­astrous results to the palate. Adol­fo Laborel summarized the prob­lem:

“…if shipped in ordinary bottles Chianti fails to please, be­cause the overseas customer likes the traditional Chianti fiasco.”

With the help of a local glass firm, he developed the so-called strapeso flagon, which was strong enough to stand up to oil-free, modernized, automatic corking. Chianti captured the lion’s share of the red wine market.

Chianti wine is a blend of sev­eral grapes. Our selection contains 80% Sangiovese and 10% Canaio­lo, both red grape varietals. The former, a truly “noble” grape, gives the wine body, tannin, acid, and “breed”, while the latter adds color and complexity. The white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano, are added to the blend, 10% com­bined, for a softening touch. Ag­ing in wood is traditional. This wine was oak aged for one year.

It has a medium dark garnet color, offering a slightly fruity aro­ma with some herbaceousness de­veloping as bouquet. Good, dry Chianti character pervades its full body with satisfying, tart fruit fla­vors and a hint of wood. A slight bitterness in the finish comple­ments rather than detracts.

Serve at room temperature with red sauced pasta dishes or broiled lambchops.

Cellaring Notes: Ready to drink now, it can easily hold for two to three more years.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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